I do not know enough about climate warming to understand if there is a cause and effect to what is going on in my back yard right now. But it's been fascinating to watch and I can't wait to see how it unfolds. I live next to Tierney's Woods, a 122 acre nature preserve in Bloomington. It's in the northwest corner of Bloomington, right next to the Edina and Eden Prairie border.
In the 26 years I've lived next to Tierney's Woods, I've grown accustomed to seeing lots of wildlife. Deer, coyotes, foxes, woodchucks, raccoons, possums...you name it and we've seen it. But the most spectacular sightings are in the spring and fall, when the bald eagles make a stop on their migratory flights.
But something altered that pattern in early December. A pair of bald eagles were daily visitors to my backyard. They began pulling branches off of dead tree limbs and carrying them about 200 yards away to a nesting site high in a huge oak tree in Tierney's Woods. They worked furiously, from dawn to sunset, hauling branches and pine boughs to their nest. I have a great view of their work, thanks to a monstrous pair of 20 X 80 binoculars I bought at Cabela's years ago.
In the 26 years I've lived here, the bald eagles were always travelers...just stopping by on their way to somewhere else. But now they have taken up residence in Bloomington. They have called Tierney's Woods home and are prepared to hatch chicks in January or February. It's fascinating to watch and I am awestruck. Mister Rogers wish has come true for me:
Won't you be?
Won't you be?
Won't you be my neighbor?
Today's recipe (The Devil's Chicken) is from Ruth Reichl and is a great way to add a little heat to your menu in December. The chicken is actually cooked in chile oil. Now you can certainly speed up the process by buying store-bought chile oil. But it's much more fun to make your own from scratch...and it will certainly taste much better than store-bought. Ruth's recipe serves four.
2 large jalapeño chiles
2 serrano chiles
¾ cup olive oil, plus more for sautéing
2 tablespoons hot paprika (or equal parts cayenne and sweet paprika)
Ground black pepper
2 ½ lemons
1 small chicken, quartered and backbone removed
- Make the chile oil: Chop jalapeño and serrano chiles and put them in a small saucepan with 3/4 cup olive oil. Add hot paprika and grind in a fair amount of black pepper. Steep over medium heat for about 15 minutes. Let sit overnight, or all day.
- Strain chile oil into a large bowl. Slice 2 lemons and add them to the bowl. Season with salt. Coat chicken with the oil, put in a zip-top bag and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to a day.
- Heat oven to 500º. Heat a cast-iron skillet until it’s quite hot (about 5 minutes). Meanwhile, remove the chicken from the chile oil and pat it dry. Sprinkle it with salt and shower it with pepper; you need a lot. Slick the bottom of the pan with olive oil and put the chicken, skin-side down, in the hot skillet. Cook until the skin is crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the chicken skin-side up.
- Put the skillet in the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with juice from half a lemon, shower with more pepper and allow to rest 10 minutes before serving.
Wine pairing: A big, fruity Zinfandel